It is your choice!
I am only a traveler as you are. We all have different ways of getting around. When I travel my choice is to use the services of locals or natives to get to know their country.
For example, in Croatia I booked an awesome bike tour with a croatian guide and we stop at a cool beach bar were I met more croatians, what a nice day!
While in Rome I found this amazing archeologist called Federico, a 'real' Roman that walked with me through empty streets and got me to Gianicolo Mount surrounded by orange trees. Only me and Federico. Fantastic!. Both of them were private tours. I loved them.
On the other hand, I visited the Predjama Castle and the amazaing caverns in Slovenia on a group tour, a totally different experience. Would I recommend it? I am still thinking about it. The group experience at Isla Saona in Dominican Republic was in my humble opinion, absolutely awesome because they are well organized, food is very good, the massage at the beach much needed and the atention to details was a plus.
I maybe a little bias because my personal preference is to do private tours. Since I, myself, enjoy more doing everything at my own pace I decided to offer that option to the visitors coming to Panama.
Before we travel it is important that "we", "you", "me" and the other people we are traveling with ask ourselves a series of questions:
It is the country I am visiting tourist friendly?,
Is it easy to use public transportation?
Would you rather save money by taking a red bus or to be more comfortable having control over your tour?,
Do you prefer to enjoy a tranquil ride in your very own terms or you dont mind having a tigh agenda with specific times for the activities or places we will visit?, etc.
In Panama, there are places you can visit on your own, if you do the proper research, so you dont miss the history behind it. If you are in the city you can take the metro (subway) and get off at Plaza 5 de Mayo and walk to the Fish Market, Cinta Costera and Casco Antiguo. However, if you wish to have the best view of the City and Casco Antiguo from the highest point in the City, the Ancon Hill, you may need a ride unless you are in very good shape and want to walk for about 35 minutes to the top.
The same applies to the Amador Causeway. It is close to the City by car but walking, may not seem that way. To go to The Panama Canal Miraflores Locks you will need a transfer as well.
Exploring countries by bus and have no time concerns is possible in Panama. For example, traveling to the world heritage site of Portobelo using public transportation it is doable, how? Get on a expresso bus to Colon, get off at Sabanitas and then transfer to a Portobelo bus. Remember you have to do the same thing to get back to he city. How long may that take you? Easily 3-4 hours each way. If you dont mind it, enjoy the rides. It will be fun! A private tour will get you there in 1 hour and 30 minutes approximately. You choose!
Let me use another example: the amazing San Blas Islands. This paradise is located two and a half hours away and there is no public transportation to go up to Carti.
Option 1 is for you to rent a vehicle to drive a very curvy and hilly road, look for someone to take you to the islands by boat (pretty easy if is not full) and then drive back, after you have been swimming and maybe drinking.
Option 2 is to have a 4x4 pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, a boat waiting on you and not the other way around, an outstanding tour to 3 island and the natural swimming pool with starfish set up and a delicious lunch for $150.
Which option sounds better? Is the tour value appropiate?
Here is were The Real Panama Tours comes handy. We are a tailor made service, meaning, a tour designed to discover Panama in a relax way, without anybody reminding you how many minutes you have left, with the possibility of making last minute changes depending upon your preferences and so on. This type of service has a different value than group tours prepared on the clock with an exact amount of time designated for every single activity.
When you select a private tour with us, we dedicate our time and efforts to ensure:
- We hit EVERY attraction as promised, without rushing you.
For example: if we take you to the 8th engineering marvel of the world and you want to see the ships passing through the Panama Canal from the 4th floor, then go the ground floor, go up to the mezzanine and go back to the 4th floor because you like it so much, we will just smile and let you have fun. In a group tour you will get in, for example at 11 and you should be by the bus 1 hour and a half later.
- We may change plans at last minute once we get to know you. For example, you may have book a City Tour but while we are having a conversation it may come up that you have never encounter a ñeque or a sloath and you would love to. We will make that happen!!!. So here there are 2 possibilities that a group tour may not offer:
a. A direct interaction with your tour guide, a good conversation with a local, someone born and raised in the country you have chosen to visit and
b. A shift in direction to look for something specific that will make your day
- Your input matters. What do I mean by that?
If you book a group tour, normally, they will choose the place were you eat (wether you like or not, you will eat there) :-(
A private tour will always have you say the last word. We can make suggestions but the final decision is YOURS. We dont make money off of bringing tourists to certain resturants because we consider is unethical
- We are the small fish so we go above and beyond to exceed your expectations. The Real Panama Trs had been around only a little over 2 years and we focus on providing a QUICK, SMOOTH, EFFICIENT and EXCELLENT customer service. If you have been in any other latinamerican country you may have experience a 'beach mode' service, slow. We now what we are doing so we are straight forward and we make everything as easy as possible. We set everything for you, as far as transportation and tours is concern. We pick you up at the airport and make any arrangements you need.
The kind of service that we provide has a value. We are not a red tourists bus that picks you up and drop you off and never hears again from you. We are in fact a very warm tour service, we care about what you think, we want to please you and we want to make sure that you enjoy The Real Panama.
So, before you hire anyone, please define your priorities: private tour or group tour?
Personalize tour or Follow the leader tour?
Is more important to save money or to have quality time?
Do you prefer to walk around with a book and pictures of the places and reading about it ot rather have someone give you facts about it?The group tour will always be cheaper because it runs like a clock while private tours will have more value because you are receiving quality and not quantity.
Think about it!
I am Sorhay Mariel, a former journalist (with college education but no degree), nature lover, a dreamer, a passionate woman that wants to show the world my beautiful, colorful, at times loud but amazing country.